It Can't Get Any Worse, Right?

So 2011 has pretty much sucked 100% since it started. It's one of those things that I silently think to myself "It can't get any worse" but then catch myself because I know that's not true. Every few weeks it seems I'm being dealt another situation to deal with in addition to the extreme burden I'm already carrying around. I am just now able to process the last two weeks enough to sit down and write about it.

My sister and I flew out to California on Saturday morning, as we couldn't get anything sooner because of the weather here. We arrived and took a cab to the hospital, greeted by my uncle. My dad had surgery late Friday night that lasted 10 hours, but was successful. It fixed his aneurysm and he was conscious and responding to commands once he woke up from anesthesia. We stopped in the cafeteria to eat when my aunt (who is a doctor) came running into the cafeteria and told us to come upstairs that my dad was no longer responding to commands or talking and she didn't like how things were looking. They were getting ready to rush him to CT and she wanted us to have the opportunity to see him, should anything happen.

It was horrible. He was restrained (because brain injuries often result in uncontrolled/involuntary aggression as a side effect to the trauma) and had tubes everywhere. As a result of the surgery, his whole head was bandaged and his right eye looked like someone had punched him. Apparently that is common because of how they had him situated when they did the surgery. Blood pools in that area and makes the patient look like they lost a street fight. My dad has never been sick aside from bronchitis every now and then, so this hit me like a ton of bricks. I grabbed his hand and asked him to open his eyes. He was only able to open one (as the other was swollen shut) but he looked right at me. I told him I loved him and that I wanted him to be strong.

That was the last time he was conscious. The result of the CT showed that he was having a common side effect of brain trauma and surgery, called vaso-spasming: a constriction of the blood vessels in the brain. If they constrict too much, they cause strokes and irreparable damage. Because of how quickly this came on and how much it caused him to decompensate, his doctors decided to put him in a medically induced coma and intubate him so his body would have time to heal without having to otherwise work so hard. I almost lost my father Saturday.

Sunday they were working on getting his blood pressure stable on the cocktail of medicines he was on while trying to treat the vaso-spasms. He had two procedures Sunday and was put on a ventilator. When I finally got to see him, I wanted to cry. They had to shave his beard in order to intubate him. I have NEVER seen my dad without a beard. He has had it since 1975, almost 10 years before I was born so I've seldom even seen pictures of him without it, unless he was a teenager. I know it was stupid, but I was so distraught.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty much the same. He was still unconscious and intubated, and my sister and I only got to see him for about 30 minutes each day. Our flight back was Tuesday and I was scared to leave. He hadn't really made any improvements since we got there and I was scared that he was going to get worse. When I went in there to say goodbye to him I just lost it. My aunt was in the room with me and just held me as I wept. The past 4 days had finally caught up with me and I couldn't hold it in any longer. She's got great bedside manner and knew exactly what to say to me to make me feel better. Knowing she was staying there with my stepmom for as long as necessary made me feel so much better as well.

My sister and I got back late Tuesday night, right in time for another ice storm. Everything was closed Wednesday so I couldn't return to IOP, but I did go Thursday. I can honestly say I was terrified to go because I didn't want to talk about the past week. I was about to fall apart and I knew it. But my IOP counselor prompted me to share with the group why I had been gone (I had been in contact with her so she already knew) and I just lost it. I cried and cried and felt like crap when I left. I was so drained and depressed that I couldn't get myself out of bed Friday to go to IOP, but a call from my aunt later that day raised my spirits.

They were slowly lifting my dad out of his coma to test his brain functions and he was moving his arms and legs and was able to show two fingers when the doctors asked him to. They kept him under extreme sedation for the rest of the weekend, but my aunt called me this morning saying that he's opening his eyes, responding to questions with nods (he still can't talk because he's still on a ventilator), moving arms and legs and following commands. They will probably take him off the ventilator tomorrow and if he keeps improving at this pace, they'll wean him off all the medications he's on and he could be out of the ICU by next Sunday!

He still has a long road ahead of him. They won't be able to tell how all of this affected his brain until he has some time to gain consciousness. He had a small stroke as a result of the vaso-spasming and the place it was located in his brain is responsible for mood and impulsiveness. Unfortunately those two are already affected with brain trauma, but adding a stroke in that area means that there is a good chance he may act different than he did before. It's likely that he will be able to walk without any problems (after some physical therapy to gain back the muscle mass he's lost/will lose after being bed-ridden for about a month) and talking might or might not be affected. It's all a waiting and patience game at this point, but it appears that he is no longer critical.

It has been a crazy couple of weeks, no doubt. I was glad to be back at home, even though I wanted to be there for my dad. I kept trying to tell myself that my dad would want me to be here, taking care of myself and trying to get better. That's the mantra I keep repeating to myself. I spent Friday to myself, resting and trying to work on my mood. I called a friend who lives a few hours away and asked him a favor. He used to be in the Army and when he was deployed overseas, I cared for his dog. The most sweet, lovable dog I have ever known. I asked him if I could come pick him up and have a little dog therapy time since these past few weeks have been so hard. I was delighted to hear that he would be glad to let me take him for a while! That helped lift my spirits, too. Finally things were going in the right direction and Friday night I was actually a little happy.

Cue catastrophe. My cat, who is pushing 20, came into the living room where I was watching TV, jumped on the sofa like she normally does, sat there for a second then started having a seizure. She has NEVER done that before and it was terrifying. She took a header off the couch onto the floor and started making these horrible noises while she was convulsing. It seemed to last forever, but after about 90 seconds she stopped. She laid there for a while then I tried to get her to stand up, which she did somewhat drunkily. After about 5 minutes she started walking and went straight to her food bowl and started eating. She was acting perfectly normal. Of course this was at like 11 at night, so there was nowhere I could take her to get her checked out. I woke up early Saturday and took her to my vet, who looked her over and took some blood. It should be back tomorrow. There's a possibility that this was caused from a thyroid problem, diabetes or liver issues. If all that comes back normal it may just be a fluke. Every time the vet sees her he comments how she is the healthiest cat he's ever seen at her age. Hopefully that will continue to be true. I don't know if I could handle losing her now.

Life is so overwhelming right now I almost can't even think about it all at once. That's why I waited so long to write here because I didn't want to trigger myself into having a panic attack. I'm doing my best to take it day by day, sometimes even hour by hour. Having my sweet little boy back definitely is helping. We went to the park today and enjoyed the fact that the sun was out for the first time in what feels like months. It was just what I needed. He's the best therapy I could ask for!


Just Be Real said...
February 14, 2011 at 4:17 AM

Oh dear Lily you have been through so much. I am so very sorry. Praying your father continues responding. And your precious kitty as well. ((((Lily))))

Anonymous said...
February 14, 2011 at 6:56 AM

Dearest Lily,
So sorry to hear about all you are going through.

Lord, I pray that you hold this little one in your arms during this storm. I pray you surround her with your love and peace. I pray for her father's healing. I pray you send healing angels to be with him and touch him with your healing power.

In Jesus Name,

Harriet said...
February 14, 2011 at 9:28 PM

Very difficult. I went through a similar situation with my father, and he didn't live nearby so it was so hard to know what was going on, and I was always so worried about what was happening. Like if I had been there I could have controlled things, you know?

I hope he is on the road to recovery.

And I hope your cat is ok too :-(

Grace said...
February 15, 2011 at 11:10 PM

Thinking of you Lily, and hoping you have the true unwavering support you so deserve during this time.

Anonymous said...
February 18, 2011 at 7:56 AM

Hey Lily, So sorry you've been through so much. That would cause anyone to fall apart.

I did want to tell you that I have had experiences with my cat having seizures and you're right, it scares you to pieces. My cat once clamped down on my arm because he was having a seizure. We never did figure it out and he lived to be about 17 having them about every other month.

Dr. Deb said...
February 18, 2011 at 4:43 PM

OMG, this is so hard to read! Sending positive thoughts and prayers your way.

Anonymous said...
February 20, 2011 at 9:35 PM

(((((((Lily))))))) What a wringer you've been going through! I hope the past week hasn't been as bad.